by Ian Morton
Released in time for the new year, Jojo Rabbit is the latest feel good comedy from Taika Waititi. Set at the end of World War 2, the story follows young Jojo, an upcoming member of the Hitler Youth and ardent follower of the Nazi movement. After finding in his attic a young Jewish girl hiding from the Gestapo, Jojo is torn between the views of his mother, the power of the Third Reich and his imaginary friend on whether to hand her over to the authorities or keep her safe behind closed doors.
Centered around the innocence of young life at a time of great despair, Jojo Rabbit’s greatest asset appears to be what other critics have condemned it for. While it could be argued that the film isn’t quite edgy enough to be deemed satirical, the reality is that the film does a great job at showing you what it was like to be a child at a time of war. Told through the eyes of little Jojo, the atrocities shown on screen are dictated by his experiences, layering what the boy goes through with the innocence of an indoctrinated 10 year old. It’s a fine balance, and one that pays off thanks to Waititi’s brand of humour and a highly capable cast.
Written for the screen, directed by, and starring as Jojo’s imaginary friend, Hitler, Waititi brings the same witty charm as 2016’s, ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’. Laced into every scene, the director knows how to tell a story through the eyes of a young person, finding whimsy in whatever world he finds his characters, while poking fun at the insanity around them. It’s this style of comedy that seems to sit well with the cast as well, Sam Rockwell in particular seems to have a particular penchant for the material, utterly lapping up each moment he is on the screen.
That’s not to say however that the film shines brightest when Rockwell is on screen alone. This is a cast that function like a well oiled machine. Scarlett Johansson is adorable as Rosie, the loving mother of our main antagonist. Stephen Merchant is the leader of a band of Gestapo, his approach to comedy acting as the perfect counterbalance to the seriousness of the role he is playing. Waititi himself is the carry on camping equivalent of Hitler, a dream like imaginary friend and moral compass of our main character with such precise humour, it must have been impossible to keep a straight face.
Easily the most impressive performances however come from the smaller members of the cast. JoJo actor Roman Griffin Davis is a delight to watch, carrying the film on the strength of his big eyes and absorbing sense of humour. Paired on screen with Thomasin McKenzie, and the blossoming relationship between the two is more than enough to keep you wanting to see more. Archie Yates is just as much fun, claiming some of the biggest laughs, coming as no surprise he has already been tapped for the Home Alone reboot.
If you are looking to kick off the new year with a heartwarming tale of innocence at a time of great despair, then look no further than Jojo Rabbit. Brilliantly directed and striking a balanced tone, this is certainly one of the better ways to start things off!
Jojo Rabbit is out January 1st!
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